10 New Web Tools to Make Life Easier
Google lists billions of websites, but it’s often hard to know which ones are useful to you as a small business owner—some are nothing but front-ends to spambots, others have been around for so long the operators forgot they even registered the domain. These brand new sites and Web services will help you do everything from create a custom profile for your company on Facebook to connect with top lawyers who will bid for your business. Sorry, none of them will run your business for you—yet.
You may already have a corporate website, but vFlyer vSites lets you create a branded page for something you sell. The idea is to create a one-off site that will compliment your main site and promote one particular service, product, or brand. New this year, vSites provides custom templates for Craigslist and other services so you can create a “virtual flyer.” Like a blogging tool, vSites also lets you add social networking content directly from Facebook and Twitter.
Kout (the name comes from the last four letters of the word “checkout”) is a new service currently in private beta that lets you build an e-commerce portal. The major advantages: You don’t need to know any programming, the well-designed site has a clean interface that encourages quick transactions, and you can take the Kout source code for your product page and paste it into your own site. The site has not revealed pricing yet. Note: Kout is not to be confused with Klout, the popular social awareness tool.
3. Branded Social Profiles
Knowing what you should do and having the time to do it are often mutually exclusive. Here’s a tool that will help you reconcile the two—at least in the social media sphere. Branded Social Profiles is a service that costs just under $300. A project manager gathers assets from you like your logo, marketing materials, and text. Then, the service builds a branded Facebook or Twitter page for you to help attract customers and generate more social networking opportunities.
Here’s a new Web service that can help you with email campaigns. Once you sign up, you can create a customer URL that explains a new special offer for your company, a new service, or even a new event. Parrut then guides you through the steps to promote the campaign on Facebook and create an email push. Then, you can track who has responded to the campaign, including conversion rates. Note: For that level of reporting, you need to sign up for a premium plan that starts at $50 per month.
One of the most interesting sites in this round-up, Visual.ly culls colorful infographics from around the Web. These illustrative charts—such as a timeline for the life of Steve Jobs or facts about Facebook—help you understand a concept using visual cues. As you might expect, the site will also provide a service to create an infographic for your own company data (pricing has not been announced).
This unusual site helps clients connect with attorneys, and for strapped small businesses it’s a godsend. Essentially, you post a “case” at the site and wait for attorneys to bid. For example, if you need to collect a debt from a customer, you can hire an attorney who will likely charge a percentage fee on the collection. The site streamlines the process: You can send private messages to top lawyers who can contact you, or wait to see who has the best offer for your particular case.
Bad grammar aside, IDoneThis.com provides a unique and helpful service. At the end of each day, you receive an e-mail that asks which tasks you completed. You can then reply with a list of what you accomplished. The service then adds this list to for day on a calendar. You can go back and review you accomplishments by day, week, or month. The site works by sheer force of will: You might finally decide to start answering the e-mails. Once you do, the service is a great way to keep track of your activities and then determine if you’re being productive or need to change some habits.
Customer relationship management (CRM) is complex enough as it is. The process of tracking customer contacts, sales leads, and sales progress is difficult enough, and most enterprise-class software will only make it more difficult. PipeDrive simplifies CRM using a pipeline that shows just the current deals you are working on, the value of the deal, and notes about the progress. The interface is simplistic, but the tool offers a fresh approach that is easy to learn and helps you stay on top of leads.
Many social media dashboards like SproutSocial.com let you track followers and engage with other Twitter and Facebook users. GroSocial is focused on growing followers and increasing engagement. With the Follower tool, you can specify your business market—say, yogurt shops or real estate agencies—and then GroSocial suggests people to follow and tracks who follows you back. The Customizer tool helps you add custom forms, widgets, and other promotional aids to your Facebook page.
AboutOurWork.com is like a social network of business sites. You create a basic business page for your company and add a logo and other marketing materials. Then, you can make connections—so, say, one construction company can link to another. There’s a visual tool for seeing how other companies have connected, and a reporting tool to see who has visited your site. The idea is to promote idea sharing, form new partnerships with other businesses, or just shoot the breeze with other entrepreneurs.